“Welcome to my studio!” said Stephanie Wooley, director of Southern Illinois Suzuki Strings, as bright and cheerful as the colorful room in her Carterville home where she teaches.
“Anyone is welcome at any age to start learning,” said Wooley.
Wooley teaches violin, viola and piano using the Suzuki method, established more than 50 years ago by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, who applied the basic principles of learning language acquisition to learning music. The Suzuki method uses imitation and repetition, along with a high degree of parent or caregiver participation and a lot of loving encouragement.
“I tell my parents that this is not musical babysitting; it’s hard work,” Wooley said. “Not every child will be a virtuoso, but every child will grow in patience, perseverance and confidence and learn how to listen and to take turns.”
She uses a “ba-jillion tricks” to keep the little ones interested, including stickers and little toys, and a game-show type wheel for students to spin to get the number of repetitions to perform. She also has a list of 99 ways to say “good job!”
Parents are taught how to be home-teachers and given instructional material and recordings of the simple songs their children are learning to play.
“I try to find the fun in every activity,” she said, “and celebrate every little step. The first thing my students learn is how to bow, and the first thing my parents learn is to clap for their students.”
Wooley opened her business in July 2016 after teaching privately and in Southern Illinois schools for more than 10 years. She has a Master’s degree in viola performance with a specialization in Suzuki pedagogy from SIUE and received her undergraduate degree in viola performance from SIUC.
Wooley is also an accomplished musician in her own right, having performed with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Orchestra and other local ensembles and recording artists.
Wooley teaches more than 30 students in both private and group lessons, following an academic schedule with 16-week semesters and holiday breaks. Her youngest students are in the Suzuki Babies Lullaby League (ages one through 24 months), the Suzuki Babies classes (ages one month through 3½ years) and the Pre-Twinkle violin classes (ages three through seven).
“Southern Illinois Suzuki Strings serves the string needs of the community, one twinkling little star at a time,” Wooley said.
Students perform in a recital each semester in Doyle Hall on the SIUC campus and starting this year, students can attend the X-mas in July Summer Violin and Art Camp.
Wooley also arranges paid performances by the Southern Illinois Suzuki Strings Ensembles, a group of Wooley’s friends and fellow musicians, and by her students, ages three through 16, who “just love to go out into the community to share their talents and their love of music.”